Peter Dinnage, Technical Director at Climalife explains why you should take leak detection seriously.
Whether it’s for safety due to flammability or to maintain optimum energy efficiency, minimise the cost of the refrigerant lost, or to comply with legislation such F-Gas, there has never been so many compelling reasons to find leaks and fix them early and quickly.
With the cost of a basic automatic leak detection system little more than the price of a 60kg bottle of refrigerant, and with the higher GWP refrigerants predicted to dramatically increase in price over the next few years, it would seem a shrewd investment and one that would help users to comply with the new revised F-Gas legislation.
The legislation surrounding leak detection
Article 3 requires operators of equipment containing F-Gases to take precautions to prevent leakage and take all measures, technically and economically feasible, to minimise leaks.
Furthermore they have to ensure equipment is repaired without undue delay. Many of the principles of the 2006 F-Gas legislation remain in Articles 4 and 5, but equipment with higher GWP refrigerants will need to be checked for leaks much more frequently.
The refrigerant charge is no longer the reference point, instead it’s the CO2 Tonnes equivalent charge value. This is calculated by multiplying the charge in kg by the GWP value of the refrigerant in the system.
CO2 Tonnes equivalent value = Refrigerant charge in kg x GWP value of the refrigerant /1000
- Any equipment containing 5 Tonnes CO2 equivalent or more needs to be leak checked and documented, as required by Article 6 on record keeping.
- For R-404A this is reduced to 1.3kg charge, R-410A to 2.4kg, although R-134a has increased to 3.5kg.
- For hermetically sealed systems the threshold doubled as it applies from 10 Tonnes CO2 equivalent.
- For systems with a charge of 3kg or less (6kg for hermetic systems), the leak check requirements don’t apply until 1st January 2017.
- For all other systems the new requirements are already in force.
Those systems with automatic leak detection that alerts the operator do not need to carry out a leak check as frequently. The logic being that if a leak were to occur, fixed leak detection would identify it immediately rather than waiting until the mandatory leak check.
For systems with 500 Tonnes CO2 equivalent or more, fixed leak detection is mandatory. For R-404A this applies to anything with a charge of 127kg or more, whilst for R-407C it would be 282kg.
The incentive for fixed leak detection is to minimise emissions and early detection of a leak starting to occur, which for high GWP refrigerants is particularly important.
5 key benefits of installing a refrigerant leak detection system
- Safety – monitor refrigerant leakage to avoid harming people and protect assets.
- Efficiency – leaks reduce energy efficiency and may increase wear and tear.
- Cost savings – reduce the amount of refrigerant being used.
- Environmental – reduce the amount of refrigerants released to atmosphere
- Compliance – EN 378, EN 14624 and F-GAS.
Leak detection: systems and sensors
Leak detection systems
Aspirated systems sample gas via tubing from various locations to a central sensor and act as a complete centralised control system where the sampled air is evaluated within the system and all measure values are displayed in one unit.